Feb 8, 2012

CPB ombudsman criticizes redactions in IG audit of WQED

Joel Kaplan, ombudsman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, writes in a column Wednesday (Feb. 8) that information redacted from a recent CPB Inspector General's report on Pittsburgh's WQED, "is inconsistent with CPB's pledge of transparency."

Kenneth Konz, the inspector general, conducted an audit of WQED Multimedia, released in December 2011, that determined that because WQED did not comply with certain CPB guidelines for reporting nonfederal financial support, CPB made improper Community Service Grants to the station in excess of $798,000.

"If you read the audit report," Kaplan writes, "you will find that it is filled with redactions about specific monetary expenditures at the heart of the audit report." Kaplan said a reporter contacted him asking why the redactions were allowed, especially because CPB noted in its latest business plan that it has "engaged in a continuous process of improving its own transparency."

The redacted figures concerned WQED's sale several years ago of Pittsburgh Magazine, a for-profit publication. George Hazimanolis, WQED spokesman, told Kaplan that the CPB inspector general's office "offered WQED the opportunity to redact anything that was proprietary and harmful to WQED's business, which we understood to be normal procedure. WQED responded very broadly to that offer." Konz told Kaplan that the removal of proprietary information from reports is mandated by federal and state laws.

"I continue to believe that it was wrong for most of this information to be redacted and it is inconsistent with CPB's pledge of transparency," Kaplan writes. "It becomes even more problematic when the names of donors are redacted since it does not allow the public to make an independent determination about whether any undue or improper influence is being used in determining what types of materials are run over the public broadcasting airwaves."

"Given that the Community Service Grants are provided to public broadcasting stations by CPB," he concludes, "I am hopeful that the CPB Board of Directors will in the future make such funding contingent on a recipient station's willingness to be transparent in all of its operations."

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Current has posted a package of articles on Public Media Futures, in conjunction with a two-year series of quarterly forums beginning this month. The forums are co-sponsored by USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy and American University’s School of Communication, which publishes Current. Both the articles and the accompanying forums are planned to amplify and contribute to conversations already under way in the field about serious issues facing public service media organizations in the 21st century.

KCET announces new spring shows, including first series from $50 million production deal

KCET in Los Angeles will premiere several new programs beginning in March, including a four-part original documentary series on caregiving, Your Turn to Care, hosted by actress Holly Robinson Peete. A companion website officially launches Feb. 15, with tips for coping with aging family members from guest experts, including best-selling author Gail Sheehy.

Classic Cool Theater premieres March 10, the first project in a $50 million production collaboration with Eyetronics Media & Studios (Current, Aug. 16, 2011). Each episode of the weekly two-hour series will include a retro cartoon, feature film, newsreel, and musical short, each from the 1930s to 1960s.

The station, which left PBS membership in January 2011, also will kick off a weeklong series of interview specials bringing back L.A. Tonight with Roy Firestone, including tennis great Andre Agassi, legendary composer Burt Bacharach; Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti and acclaimed jazz vocalist Steve Tyrell.

Also debuting is George Gently, distributed by Executive Program Services, a BBC series set in the 1960s based on the Inspector Gently novels by Alan Hunter.

Gerald Poulsen, a.k.a. WAMU bluegrass host Jerry Gray, dies at 78

Gerald Poulsen, known on the WAMU airwaves as bluegrass host Jerry Gray, died Feb. 2 in Roanoke, Va. He was 78.

His son Mark Poulsen told the Washington Post that his father had complications from a heart transplant that he received after suffering a heart attack on the air in 1989.

Poulsen started in 1971 at WAMU, the pubstation licensed to American University. He spent 30 years as host of The Jerry Gray Show on Saturday afternoons, featuring traditional country music such as Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and Patsy Montana. In 1978, he began co-hosting  Bluegrass Country, a weekday drive-time show, and later became its host."Mr. Poulsen carried each day’s selections to the studio with him, drawn from his personal collection of more than 12,000 records," the Post noted.

In 2001, when the station went to news and public affairs format, Poulsen retired to Hardy, Va.

He was born Oct. 9, 1933, in Washington, D.C. He graduated in 1951 from McKinley Technical High School, served in the Army, attended American University and studied at a local private radio training academy.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Louise “Kay” Gregory Poulsen of Hardy; five children: Donna Catron, Jon Poulsen, Lora Whitehurst, Mark Poulsen and Kathryn Dorshimer; his mother, Vesta Poulsen; one sister; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

Elliott Mitchell dies at 67; pubcasting staffer, public access advocate

Elliott Mitchell III, who worked in public broadcasting in Florida, New York and Tennessee, died Feb. 1 in Nashville. He was 67.

His obituary in the Paducah (Ky.) Sun said that during his career he produced Today in the Legislature, a statewide program from Florida Public Broadcasting in Tallahassee, as well as At The Top and other music programs at WXXI television in Rochester, N.Y. He was a member of the WPLN-FM community advisory board in Nashville, and a national and regional board member of the Alliance for Community Media, which advocates for Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) channels. He was also a founding member of the Education Access Corporation, which programs Nashville public-access channels.

Survivors include his wife, Marie Fagen, and their son, William; brother Rick and his wife, Linda, and several nieces, nephews and cousins. There will be no service at Mitchell's request. The family suggests donations to WPLN, Nashville Public Radio, Dept. 22, P.O. Box 305172, Nashville, Tenn., 37230-5172.